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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Miniatures, frescoes, icons: the figural arts in the Islamic world (7th-15th century) (HIAR10126)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is an introduction to the figural arts in the Islamic world between the time of the Prophet in the 7th century and the apogee of Persian painting in the 15th century. While Islamic art is commonly associated with the prohibition of images, the study of its history suggests a different perspective. Figural imagery was taken out of the mosque at an early stage, yet it never ceased to be cultivated in other contexts, starting with the wall paintings and statues of the earliest Islamic palaces. Throughout this period of nearly a millennium, Christians remained an essential component of societies under Muslim rule. Their art, which placed icons and sacred portraits at the heart of spiritual life, reflected a distinct conception of the image, yet it was part and parcel of visual culture in the Islamic world. This led to several phases of creative exchange, particularly with the expanding art of the Arabic illustrated book. Towards the close of this period, the Mongol invasions brought about a new factor: the input of Chinese painting into the visual arts in Iran. Persian miniature was born, and soon gave rise to the unexpected: Islamic depictions of the Prophet. Through the study of these and other topics, the course will foster a reflection about larger themes: the nature and power of the image; relations between Muslims and Christians in the Islamic world; the role of orality and literature in Islamic culture; the Asian and Mediterranean dimensions of Islamic art; and the conception of creativity in a non-Western civilisation. Students will also gain firsthand experience of world-renowned illustrated Persian manuscripts at Edinburgh University Library.
Course description Seminar list

Introduction: On the power of images

Hunters, kings and dancers: Umayyad painting and sculpture

The princely cycle in Islamic iconography

The Word made flesh and Muslim verbal portraiture

Orality, indecency and the image in Arabic illustrated books

Syriac bible miniatures and their relation to Islam

East and West in the World History of Rashid al-Din

The earliest representations of the Prophet in Islam

Artistic procedures and creativity under the House of Tamerlane

Demons in chains: Siyah Qalam
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Discuss several of the main strands, styles and patterns that defined the figural arts in the Islamic world.
  2. Appraise similarities and dissimilarities between conceptions of the image prevalent in eastern Christianity and Islam.
  3. Question the relationship between the formal qualities of artworks, their intended function and their social context.
Reading List
Reference works

Blair, Sheila, and Jonathan Bloom. 1994. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. Pelican History of Art. New Haven: Yale University Press.
1997. Islamic Arts. London: Phaidon.
2009. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ettinghausen, Richard. 1977. Arab Painting. 2nd ed. Lausanne: Skira.
Sims, Eleanor. 2002. Peerless Images. Persian Painting and Its Sources. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Alain George
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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